Confessions From Father of the Bride

When my editor told me February’s issue would feature a couple of spectacular weddings and a “matters of the heart” theme, my wife laughed. “Wow. Good luck with that one. Stories about fishing, hunting, remote owning–you’ve got those down. But weddings?” She was right–years ago attending at least one wedding was a monthly staple for us, but since the late 1980s–nothing. Our understanding of the contemporary version of the age-old tradition has been left to the movie theaters. 

In the last 10 years there have been just two weddings we’ve attended, but I figured neither father would want to be a part of any exposé. There were likely two vows taken during those wedding ceremonies. One by the bride/groom, and the other by the dad: Silence. Because, as Hollywood has suggested, the stress, tension and yes, dollars involved in such events are not the stuff of fictional screenplays. They are real. Nevertheless, both events we attended were modest, tasteful, stylish and refreshingly old school. 

Still, it was worth a shot. I sent an e-mail to one of my former law partners. His daughter tied the knot 18 months ago. My invitation to dish about his FOB experience–that’s Father of the Bride–was clearly a form of therapy long overdue for my pal. His reply jammed my in-box. And this is what I learned: 

First of all, anyone who has been through the planning and execution of a wedding understands that “Father of the Bride” is not a fictional account glamorized by Hollywood. It is all true. Except for the corny basketball game on the driveway in the Steve Martin movie version.
[I should add that the FOB in this case is 6′ 3″, played D II college basketball, and still has ‘game.’ Perhaps that offers an explanation.]

Second, if you are the FOB, never, ever let yourself get between the MOB–the Mother of the Bride–and the daughter–oh, don’t worry about that. They won’t let you. Perfect the art of smiling, nodding and generally just shutting up. It’s like a locomotive coming at you at 60 miles an hour. You move out of the way–quickly.

Speaking of movies, I never saw it but wasn’t there a movie called “The Invisible Man”? It was surely about the father escorting his daughter down the aisle. NO ONE SEES HIM!!! “Oh, look at that pretty dress.” “My, she is beautiful!” 

The father could have his fly open while downing a Bud Light and dropping M-80s down the aisle, but no one would notice. Guests are all fixated on the bride and the event.

The person who has the best job at a wedding is the photographer. He always lives in a tony neighborhood in a large house. When you get his bill, it all makes sense. But there are other things–he has exclusive access to the bride and all the ladies, and he’s always welcome. And how hard is it to take pictures at group events? I used to do that at the kindergarten roundup. For free.

There are other issues. When did people start outsourcing the beauty shop to the hotel? No, no need for you to come to us; we’ll come to you. At great expense. Hairstylists. Make-up experts. Manicurists. Pedicurists. Epicurists. Orthodontists. Whatever it takes to make you beautiful on this special day. And yes, they take AmEx. 

For all the parents out there–get an equity line of credit. Or call Capital One–“What do you have in your wallet?” Nothing, now, thanks for asking. 

Other tips: Do not forget the band. The church choir is usually pretty cheap, but they stumble over the Lady Gaga pieces. Lady Gaga is too expensive. Deejays are so yesterday. The secret–be sure the band is loud and plays no earlier than five hours after the bar opens. By then, no one cares how GOOD the band is. They cannot hear it over that buzz in their heads. 

After all the hassle, expense, angst, second-guessing, coulda, woulda, shoulda’s, there will come that magical point when it is all worthwhile. Your happily-married daughter will attend someone else’s wedding, and deep into the night when some awful band is blasting away, she will send you a text: “Being at someone else’s wedding reminds me of how special you made mine. Thanks, Dad.” It’s at that point you have a new problem–comforting her mother, who is crying her eyes out.

I finished reading my buddy’s account, took a seat on the couch and exhaled. For a brief moment, the notion of having three sons and just one daughter seemed to be a heaven-sent blessing. And then that suddenly changed. A shout came from the bedroom of slacker dude No.3: “Dad, I need the plunger–NOW!”

words: Matthew Keenan